a commentary by Tony McRae

Here’s the story line.  For centuries there’s been a truce between humans and a race of creatures from an invisible realm, but now that truce is about to be broken – and that means there will be hell on earth – literally, and humankind is ripe for extinction:  Prince Nuada is about to unleash the “Golden Army,” 7 times 70 mechanized killing machines that will eradicate humanity.  But hold on.  We humans have an ace in the hole.  

Now this may sound like just another superhero movie where Batman or Superman or Spiderman takes on a totally evil creature and saves the planet.   And in a way it is just that.

Now, however, there’s a new kid on the block.  He’s strong, he chomps on cigars (preferably Cuban), and he’s in love.    And he’s very funny.  The love of his life is Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), the Beauty to Hellboy’s Beast, played deliciously by Ron Perlman.

What makes this comic book hero different and fresh is the movie’s feel, and the man responsible for this is director Guillermo del Toro.  What he’s done is to transform a big movie into something else.  Sure, the multiplicity of CGI images keeps the story moving, yet unlike so many recent comic book adventures, the Hellboy movies have an idiosyncratic and sly syntax.  Amidst the chaos of rampaging insects and otherworldly creatures bent on destroying anything and anyone in their paths, del Toro never loses sight of the smaller “human” picture embodied in Hellboy and his friends.  Yes, human.  For what del Toro is really doing is underlining the contrast – and similarities -  between machines and humans.   Hellboy himself is part machine (aren’t we all, to some extent?), yet unlike the mechanized Golden Army, Hellboy and cohorts are able to overcome unbelievable onslaughts because they are humans, with human traits – concern for one another, sorrow, love, even humor and playfulness.   

If you’ve seen last year’s wonderful “Pam’s Labyrinth,” you have some idea what you’re in store for in the Hellboy series (Hellboy I came out in 2004, but you don’t have to see “Hellboy I” to enjoy this sequel.)

What I really like about this Hellboy is its whimsy.  And let’s not forget its nasty creatures.  And that includes not only the irreverent cigar smoking Hellboy, but also the creations that del Toro has come up with:  big, ugly things, small cute and deadly creatures.  Especially gruesome are the “tooth fairies,” adorable flying creatures who feed on the bones of live humans.  It’s eye-popping stuff, even if you’ve seen every comic book movie out there.  My main gripe about the current crop of CGI flicks is that they overwhelm both the story and the characters who are merely disposable appendages. 

I’m sure the movie is making money, but my guess is it's not do as well as it might have because of “The Dark Knight” coming on its heels.  They are two very different comic book hero movies.  Batman takes himself very seriously, Hellboy doesn’t.  Batman is a loner, really not so likeable.  Hellboy wants to be a loner but he always winds up in the middle of the action.  He has a bad attitude, and that’s lucky for us humans.





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